Confidence in Wisconsin Supreme Court Plunges
"New Poll Shows Citizens Are Losing Faith" Justice at Stake Says
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Wisconsin voters' confidence in their supreme court has plummeted to just 33 percent, down from 52 percent just three years ago, according to an opinion survey conducted on behalf of Justice at Stake. "Wisconsin's citizens are losing faith and confidence in their supreme court," said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake. "Courts are supposed to be the one safe place where people know they are going to get a fair hearing, without worrying about partisan political influence. But in Wisconsin, there are real questions about whether the public has lost confidence that their supreme court can issue fair and impartial decisions. When asked about assault allegations involving Justice David Prosser and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, 84 percent said they were aware of the allegations. Another 80 percent were aware of an incident in which Justice Prosser called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a profane word and threatened to "destroy" her during an argument. Fully 88 percent were at least somewhat concerned that campaign spending and the deteriorating tenor of judicial elections are tarnishing the reputation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. When asked whether they support merit selection – a process in which a governor fills judicial vacancies from a list of finalists crafted by a citizen nominating commission – as a reform to solve some of the problems related to the court, support was tempered. Only 23 percent said they supported merit selection by itself, with 18 percent left undecided. Merit selection appeared more promising when paired with periodic retention elections, however. When asked, 49 percent said the inclusion of retention elections made them more likely to support a move to merit selection. "Merit selection is just one of many reforms that could reduce partisan bickering and improve people's perceptions of the court," Brandenburg said. Conducted July 18-20 by 20/20 Insight Polling, the statewide opinion survey of 750 registered Wisconsin voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent. To see full poll results, click here.
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The Justice at Stake Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign working to keep America's courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom—so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the Rule of law. Justice at Stake public statements do not necessarily reflect the views of all partners or JAS board members. For more about Justice at Stake, visit www.justiceatstake.org, or www.gavelgrab.org. Facebook: JusticeAtStake; Twitter: /justicestake.